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News Article

Threats to the Food Supply Chain

By Miriam Bello | Thu, 04/23/2020 - 15:03

Global food supply and safety have been a primary worry for society amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Common concerns begin with wondering if food supply will be enough during lockdown. According to Maximo Torero, FAO Chief Economist, although it is unlikely and unsustainable that logistics companies will allow food shortages at supermarket and stores, there needs to be a coordinated global response to ensure that this situation will not scale toward vulnerable populations that usually face food scarcity and do not really have access to a supermarket. According to CONEVAL, 1.6 percent of the population suffers from food supply insecurity and 25.5 percent has problems to access food.

In countries like Mexico, many families, especially children, rely on food assistance, whether through programs at public schools or at DIF. To combat malnutrition, overweight and obesity, the Mexican government created a program to supply public schools with breakfasts for children on vulnerable situations, which began in August 2019. This program go to even higher levels of public education. However, SEP has suspended presential classes from March 20 to June 1. LICONSA is another example of a government support program. Food and milk have been delivered with no delay due to the COVID-19 crisis and the Mexico City government is expected to additionally give pantry vouchers to the beneficiaries of the program.

Sembrando Vida has also been a major concern for producers as they rely on the governments supply for production. So far, support has been delivered consistently, meaning that production can continue. Still, the government has called on the agriculture sector to avoid panic purchases as they can disrupt supply chains and the whole intention of the Sembrando Vida Program is to secure food self-sufficiency for Mexico. 

Mexico’s trade balance registers a deficit of production of 41 percent in cereal grains that are part of the basic foods basket as it exports more than what it imports. The Mexican government has released a Q&A document regarding food supply in Mexico in regards to production and exports that can be checked here.

According to FAO, low and middle-income countries account for a third of the world’s food trade. Failing to ensure global food supply would put countries that heavily depend on trade on a vulnerable position and it could also be a big hit to producer countries and families. The situation is highly complex, however, farmers need support from the government to keep producing. Meanwhile, there are scenarios like in the US, where farming is done by migrant workers requiring special permits to cross the border. These permits are no longer issued as part of global COVID-19 preventive measures. In producing countries like Mexico, supply chain disruptions could be dire for rural communities as losses could be fatal. Supermarket stock is of course a cause of concern, but the damage that Walmart will suffer does not compare to that of local communities.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
FAO, CONEVAL, Devex, Expansión
Photo by:   pxhere
Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst